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Reader finds exercise relieves sciatic pain

Peter H. Gott, M.D.

Dear Dr. Gott: I am 84 years old and suffered from sciatic pain for more than two years nearly 25 years ago.

When I first developed the pain, I was incredibly busy. I was taking care of my husband, who was dying of lung cancer, and working with kindergartners and first-graders. I also had to take care of the housework, laundry, grocery shopping, and getting my husband to and from all his doctor appointments, as well as myself for my back pain.

I had been referred to several doctors, and none could offer me a diagnosis. I finally went to a chiropractor, who ordered X-rays and diagnosed me with sciatica. Adjustments gave me temporary relief. I was considering acupuncture as a next step because I was desperate to find a solution, when I happened upon an article in my paper. It was written by a physician (not you) who gave an exercise used to reduce sciatic pain.

After reading the article, I tried the exercise. I started feeling a little better within a few days, and I was pain free after two months. I continued to do it several times a day for three or four years. When I was sure I was going to be OK, I stopped. The exercise really works. I have been pain free for 25 years now. I only use it now when I start to feel the slightest twinge of back pain. I do it as often throughout the day as I can for several days just to make sure I won’t have a problem.

I hope you print my letter because I know it will help others. Here are the instructions as I read them 25 years ago.

Lay flat on your back on a firm surface. Stretch both arms above your head and stretch your legs down as far as they will go. Next, with one leg at a time, stretch your heel down and point your toes backward toward your knee. Hold for a count of five, then relax. Repeat with the other leg.

You will feel your spine stretch. This can be done a few times with each leg before getting back up to go on with the day. It is important to do the exercise throughout the day whenever you have a chance because it takes time to stretch the muscles and put them back in place.

Dear Reader: I am passing your letter on to my readers in the hopes that this will help some of them. Sciatica and back pain in general can be very troublesome and difficult to treat. This is primarily because we use our backs much more often than we realize, and, unfortunately, most people do not use proper precautions when exercising, weight lifting or carrying heavy objects. This can lead to muscle sprain or strain and can also cause the spinal discs to slip out of place and put pressure on the spinal nerves. If not properly treated, this constant nerve pressure can be disabling.

Doctor Gott is a retired physician. He writes for United Media and can be reached at Dr. Gott c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th fl., New York, NY 10016.
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